Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Goals for 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's theme is Top Ten Goals/Resolutions for 2015. These can be bookish, blog related, or anything else. Here's my list!!

1.  Read 90 books. This year, my goal was 70. I finished with 86. So clearly I beat my goal! Upping it a little bit more to 90 books for 2015.

2. Participate in as many reading challenges as possible. The main reason for this is that it's a fun way to connect with other bloggers! I met some super awesome people from participating in reading challenges in 2014, and I look forward to more fun in 2015!

3. Continue blogging! Goal is to post 2-3 times a week. I started my blog March 31, 2014 and am super excited to start my second year of consistent writing and blogging.

4. Write more. One of my life goals is to write a book. You can't write a book if you don't regularly write!

5. Participate in the A-Z blog challenge in April.  This will help me with Goal #4. Need to start thinking of a theme! And now that I've stated on here that it's my goal...I have to do it. Lol.

5. SIMPLIFY MY LIFE. This is a big one. This weekend I cleaned out my entire kitchen and put back only the stuff I really needed in order to achieve this goal. I have way too much stuff and it stresses me out.

6.  Eat healthy. This one is always on the list. I do pretty well, but definitely could improve.

7. Read more books I already own. I have quite  a few books on my shelf (really, shelves) that I have yet to read. I get so distracted by all the new books and books at the library that I forget about the ones I have at home already!

8. Be present. Leave work at work. Enjoy home when home. Live in the moment.

9. Get into a new book series. Though nothing can top Harry Potter :)

10. Go to the beach more often. I only live about 45 minutes to an hour away from the Oregon Coast. The ocean is so calming to me. I want to take more day trips there. Someday my husband and I want to buy a little beach cottage there, but until we can do that...more day and weekend trips are necessary!

What are your goals for 2015? Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

 This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey.

I had all last week off from work, but unfortunately didn't get as much reading done as I would've liked! Lots of family obligations and Christmas activities. I did manage to get halfway through the current book I'm reading (and it's a long one) so I am happy with that progress! My books "On Deck" I'm saving for the Bout of Books next week!

Recently Finished:
(see my review here)

Currently Reading:
On Deck:

(Thanks to NetGalley for This Side of Home--to be released Feb. 3rd 2015, hence the "draft" marking on the cover)

Happy Reading!!



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Brining This Year!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's theme is Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Brining This Year. What a fun theme! Here we go!

1. Anything and everything by Colleen Hoover.... she is amazing!

2. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

3. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

4. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

5. A Second Bite at the Apple by Dana Bate

6. Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner

7. The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms

8. Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

9.  Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah

10. Any Rainbow Rowell book (except Landline, which I already have)

What books would you like Santa to bring you this year?

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Me Before You

Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
369 pages, published December 2012
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: purchased for my Kindle

From GoodReads:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.  What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

My Review: 

I was excited to read this book because I'd heard so many good things about it! This was my first time reading one of Jojo Moyes' books, and it certainly won't be my last.  What I loved about this book was that it went so much deeper than I expected--the book deals with intense, emotional and deep feeling and situations, and the author writes it beautifully.  When others warn you you'll need tissues for this one, they aren't kidding. The story is beautifully heartbreaking, real, and happy all at the same time.

I loved both Lou and Will as characters.  Each were on their own journey throughout the book and became totally different people because of each other in a beautiful way. This book is more than just a love story--both character's journeys are life changing. 

If you haven't read this one yet, I definitely recommend it. Just don't expect a light and fluffy "chick lit" with this one--it's so much more.

Overall rating for "You Before Me": A -

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: The French for Christmas

Title: The French for Christmas
Author: Fiona Valpy
304 pages, published October 2014
Genre: Holiday, Women's Fiction

I received this ebook from Netgalley. This is my honest review.

From GoodReads:
Evie used to LOVE Christmas, but this year she can’t wait for the tinsel and presents to be a distant memory.

When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan.

Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness.

And when Evie meets her next-door neighbour – the très gorgeous doctor Didier she finds a very willing taste-tester. But is it possible that he could be interested in more than just her Tarte Tatin?

With snow falling, a special Réveillon dinner and a little Christmas magic in the air, could Didier even be the one to thaw Evie’s heart? Or will a visit from the ghost of Christmas past change everything?

My Review:

This book was DELIGHTFUL! I absolutely loved it. Those who know me know I love French culture, so I really enjoyed that the majority of this book was set in France. I also really identified with Evie's situation and found myself really wishing I had a cute little French cottage to escape to this December! Evie's character had such real and raw emotion that made her likeable and so easy to relate to and root for throughout the book.  The book had so many funny moments (the pig in the backyard of the cottage, to name one) and so many fun characters.

The writing was fun, the story was entertaining, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's one of the best Christmas themed books I've read. I was a bit predictable, as this genre can be, but sometimes predictability is just what you need in a delightful novel such as this! This is a perfect read for your winter break!

Overall rating for "The French for Christmas": A

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bout of Books 12 Sign Up!!

Bout of Books

I'm so excited to be participating in Bout of Books 12, my third Bout of Books experience!! I had a fantastic time with Bout of Books 10 and 11, and can't wait for the fun that Bout of Books 12 will bring!! Here's some information about Bout of Books 12 from the official site:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I will set my goals for Bout of Books when the event gets closer. My main goal is to beat my amount of pages read during Bout of Books 11, which was 851. More details to come in the next couple weeks!

There's still plenty of time to sign up! You can do so here. I'm so excited to connect with other readers!! Happy Reading, fellow Bout of Books Participants!!!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: The Boston Girl

Title: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
256 pages, published December 9, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction

I received this ebook from Netgalley. This is my honest review.

From GoodReads:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie's intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can't imagine - a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her "How did you get to be the woman you are today." She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

My Review:

I love historical fiction, and this book was no exception.   This book reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn--although less wordy and about an immigrant, the coming of age story and the time frame are so similar.  I loved Addie as a character--I admired her desire to learn and make something more of herself. The book was a bit slow moving at first and it took me a bit to get into it, but once I did it was hard to put down.

Naturally, I also loved Addie as a character because she too loved books and writing. In answering her granddaughter's question "How did you get to be the woman you are today?" Addie said "It all started in that library, in the reading club. That's where I started to be my own person." This book addressed so many issues--a woman's right to vote, the role of women in the workplace, WW1, The Great Depression, orphan trains, and child labor, just to name a few. This is why I love historical fiction--learning about these issues through the eyes of a character you connect with and relate to.

Diamant did a beautiful job with this book.  I definitely recommend it for those who love historical fiction, particularly historical fiction set in the early 1900's. You will not be disappointed!

Overall rating for "The Boston Girl": A-

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Ten New To Me Authors in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's theme is Top Ten New to Me Authors in 2014. I'm really excited about this topic because I've discovered some great new authors in 2014!

1. J.K. Rowling : I know, it's so sad that I've just now discovered the wonderfulness of Harry Potter just this year.  But on the upside: I LOVED the series. It was a fantastic summer reading project!

2. Colleen Hoover: one of my FAVORITE new authors!! I read Maybe, Someday and Ugly Love this year and fell in love with both books. I cannot wait for future CoHo reads!!

3. Sarah Jio: another one of my new favorites!! Her books are so creative and interesting, and I love that the ones I've read (Goodnight June, Blackberry Winter, and The Look of Love) have all bet set in Seattle!

4. Rainbow Rowell: I read all four of her books this year, and my favorite is definitely Eleanor and Park. RR is absolutely brilliant. Along with CoHo and Jio, RR has made my "must pre-order" list!

5. Stephanie Perkins: I absolutely loved the Anna and the French Kiss series!!

6. Gillian Flynn: I am so glad I read all three of her books this year--I rarely read this genre and I credit her great writing for getting me into it! Even if the stories were like train wrecks you couldn't tear your eyes away from...haha.

7.Heather Gudenkauf: I loved Little Mercies. I definitely want to read more of her books!

8. Gabrielle Zevin: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry warmed my little book loving heart!

9. Gayle Forman: I really enjoyed If I Stay and Where She Went, and look forward to reading her other books!

10. Alan Brennert: If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you've probably seen my love for his novel Molokai. I read it at the very beginning of 2014 and it's become one of my all time favorites!

Wow! Until I compiled this list I didn't realize just how many wonderful new books and authors I've read this year!! I'm so excited to discover more new authors in 2015!

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: The Look of Love

Title: The Look of Love
Author: Sarah Jio
320 pages, published November 2014
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: Purchased for myself

From GoodReads:

Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed. Inspired by the classic song, The Look of Love is utterly enchanting.

My Review:

I've read several of Jio's books this year, and she's become one of my favorite authors. I preordered this book and was excited to receive it in the mail the day it came out.  What I loved about this book was how creative the plot was. However farfetched the concept of your vision clouding when you see true love is, Jio made it work in a way that wasn't overly cheesy or weird. I love how Jio  entwined the concepts of science and love. I also enjoyed all the other characters besides Jane--newlyweds Katie and Josh, Elaine the baker, Mary the hairstylist, and her shop assistant Lo. All different love stories and all heartwarming.

I love Jio's writing style. It's quirky and fun, and a quick, relaxing read.  I read it over Thanksgiving weekend and it was perfect cozy holiday read.  If you're looking for a fun read and don't mind a little bit of cheesiness and predictably, you'll love this book. Jio is one of my must-read authors--if you haven't read one of her books you absolutely should!

Overall rating for "The Look of Love": A

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books: Never Leave Home Without Them

In yesterday's blog post, I discussed my work with the This I Believe project. As promised, here is my own This I Believe essay, entitled, "Books: Never Leave Home Without Them."

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with books.  I was fortunate to have parents who read to me on a regular basis. Bedtime each night meant reading a chapter or two from the current book Mom and I were reading together—the Little House on the Prairie series and the Anne of Green Gables series were some of my favorites. One of my favorite stories my mom has told me about my childhood was how even as a toddler I was enthralled by books—after unwrapping one at Christmas I would immediately sit down to read and ignore any and all other presents from that moment on.

Our weekly library day at school was my absolute favorite day of the week, and one of my favorite events of the year was the Battle of the Books—a team trivia competition based off of a selection of children’s and young adult books held at my elementary school.  I had fantastic teachers who encouraged me to read, and one of my favorite memories from fourth grade was “Read In” Day: an entire day devoted to reading in which we could bring blankets, pillows, a backpack full of books, and read all day long.
I was a voracious reader throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Reading for pleasure became more difficult in college with all the required textbook reading for classes, but once I graduated from college I dove right back into reading. I currently set reading goals, write book reviews for my blog, and get immense joy from an evening spent enjoying a book and a cup of coffee. I cannot go a single day without reading—if I do not get to read I become anxious and agitated. The simple act of reading on my lunch break or in the evening is calming and reduces my stress level instantly. The mere sight of a large bookshelf or library has the same calming effect. I can spend hours in a bookstore, browsing the shelves.

I believe the written word is one of the most powerful tools in our society, whether it be in the form of fiction, nonfiction, short stories or poetry .  Books allow us to learn about other cultures, ideas, and places, to understand our history, to allow us to relax and escape from the world, and to help us understand we are not alone. Reading allows us to become well rounded, open minded and tolerant individuals.  Through reading, we can experience a different time and place without leaving home.

 In every book I read, I try to make a personal connection to a character or idea in the book. I try to learn something from the book, even if it’s a fictional story.  Through these personal connections, I understand that my feelings are others’ feelings, and my struggles are other’s struggles. I know that as long as I have a book with me I will never be truly alone. I never, ever, leave home without a book in my possession. That way, I know I’ll always have somewhere to go to learn, to escape, to relax, and to find joy. Just like those “Read-In” days in elementary school, I always carry a “backpack” (now a purse) full of books, in case I have a few minutes of time to escape into a world believe in: the world of books.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This I Believe: In the Classroom

For the last six years, I've been teaching a First Year Experience course at the university where I work.  In class we address topics such as time management, study skills, and campus resources. Each year, we also do a project, and this years' project is one of my favorites so far.  The project is based off the book and NPR series, "This I Believe."

From Goodreads:

Based on the National Public Radio series of the same name, This I Believe features eighty essayists--from the famous to the unknown--completing the thought that begins the book's title. Each piece compels readers to rethink not only how they have arrived at their own personal beliefs but also the extent to which they share them with others.

Featuring a well-known list of contributors--including Isabel Allende, Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem, William F. Buckley Jr., Penn Jillette, Bill Gates, and John Updike--the collection also contains essays by a Brooklyn lawyer; a part-time hospital clerk from Rehoboth, Massachusetts; a woman who sells Yellow Pages advertising in Fort Worth, Texas; and a man who serves on the state of Rhode Island's parole board.

The result is a stirring and provocative trip inside the minds and hearts of a diverse group of people whose beliefs--and the incredibly varied ways in which they choose to express them--reveal the American spirit at its best.

The student's task was to write their own This I Believe essay. In class, I shared my favorites from the book, as well as tips from their website to help write your own. Because the essay is such a personal and potentially vulnerable topic, I decided the students would not be writing their essay alone. I decided to write one with them. Today is the due date for the paper, and the presentation with other First Year Experience classes is tonight. I look forward to reading their essays and learning more about them as individuals.

In tomorrow's blog post, I will post my This I Believe essay, entitled "Books: Never Leave Home Without Them."

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: He's So Fine

Title: He's So Fine
Author: Jill Shalvis
368 pages, published September 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: purchased for my Kindle

From GoodReads:

For Olivia Bentley, Lucky Harbor is more than the town where she runs her new vintage shop. It's the place where folks are friendly to strangers-and nobody knows her real name. Olivia does a good job of keeping her past buried, not getting too cozy with anyone . . . until she sees a man drowning. Suddenly she's rushing into the surf, getting up close and personal with the hottest guy she's ever laid hands on.

Charter boat captain Cole Donovan has no problem with a gorgeous woman throwing her arms around his neck in an effort to "save" him. In fact, he'd like to spend a lot more time skin-to-skin with Olivia. He's just not expecting that real trouble is about to come her way. Will it bring her deeper into Cole's heart, or will it be the end of Olivia's days in little Lucky Harbor?

My Review:

I really likedd It's in His Kiss, so I was excited to read the next book in the Lucky Harbor series. He's So Fine was just as charming and fun as It's in His Kiss, and a perfect romance novel. This one was a bit more cheesy and predictable than It's in His Kiss, but that could be because it followed a similar pattern as the first one I read.  It centers around the same characters as It's in His Kiss but focuses on Olivia this time.

I liked this book, but didn't love it. It's definitely a feel good romance if you're in the mood for something light and an easy read and don't mind a little predictability. I'm still planning on reading One in A Million, the next book in the series.

Overall grade for "He's So Fine": B

Happy Reading!